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THE MECHANISM OF WRITING 265
pen, and the muscular mechanism necessary for wielding the
writing-instrument has been established. From an examination of
such drawings it is possible to come to a safe conclusion about
the child's readiness to hold a pen in his hand.
As alternative exercises are also used the above-mentioned out-
line drawings which represent combinations of geometrical figures
.and various decorative subjects such as flowers and scenery. Such
•drawings perfect the handwork, because they oblige the child to
draw lines of varying lengths and make him more and mor6
skilful and sure in the use of his hands.
Now if we were to reckon up the lines produced by a child in
filling in the figures and if they were translated into the graphic
lines of writing, there would be filled many dozens of copybooks.
Hence the mastery of the sign in the writing of our little ones could
be compared with that which is attained in the third elementary
•class by the common methods.
When they take a pen into their hand for the first time, they
will be able to handle it almost like a writer.
I consider that no means could be found which could be more
efficacious in making such a conquest in less time, and which
could give so much amusement to the child. The old method
which I used with the defectives—of touching the outlines of the
letters on the card with a rod—was, by contrast, very poor and
Even when the children can write, I always continue with
these exercises, which allow of indefinite progress, for the drawings
can be varied and complicated in all sorts of ways, and the children,
always practising essentially the same exercise, see accumulating a
.gallery of varied pictures of increasing merit, which are the pride
of every one of them. Thus I not only start, but improve writing,
"by the very exercises which I call preparatory; for example, in the
present case the holding of the pen will be made more and more
secure, not with repeated exercises in writing, but with those of
filling in drawings* So my children perfect themselves, in writing